A Foundation for a Great Life

by Jennifer Callahan, Office of Gift Planning

When starting a new job early in his career, Michael Damer '70 sought the advice of job's former occupant, Jamie Hartshorn, by inviting her to lunch. "The rest is history," recalls Michael, laughing. "We have been married 38 years and enjoy a happy life together with our rescue alpacas, dogs, cats, and chickens."

Damer credits his mother and USF for setting him up for this good life. “My mother had strongly encouraged me to earn a college degree. I did not apply anywhere else and did work-study to help pay for school. I am grateful to USF for making college possible for me.”

A Worldview at USF

Damer had his own room in the dorms during his freshman year since his assigned roommate did not show up. “This was an unusual start, but it all worked out. Coming from Portland, OR my experience at USF was mind opening.”
Damer reflects, “The late 1960s were a time of change, and USF was located in a diversified community, enrolled foreign students, and offered cultural influences. I saw and experienced different kinds of people working together. This shaped my worldview to later work effectively at a company with people who see the world very differently.”
His experience at USF enabled Damer to serve as manager of community relations at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), the Toyota-General Motors (GM) joint venture located in a former GM plant in Fremont CA. The GM plant at the time was noted for its low quality and productivity as well as poor employee morale.
Utilizing the same workforce and partnering with the UAW, NUMMI soon started achieving industry-leading results in quality and productivity. Damer and the Community Relations team initiated a public tour program, employer paid scholarships, and car donations to public organizations. It jumpstarted Damer’s philanthropic aspiration.

A Philanthropic Spirit

Damer might trace his philanthropic spirit back to USF. One of his fondest memories was when he had discovered a Stein concert grand piano in the auditorium of Lone Mountain College. He was able to arrange for USF to donate the piano to the Oakland Symphony.
Damer and Hartshorn recently made a gift for future USF students. “Looking back on organizations that are important to us, USF gave me the foundation to build a great life. A good college education is mind opening,” says Damer. “You give and you get with a gift annuity, which allows you to support a cause you believe in and provide some financial security for yourself. It feels good.”
In addition to supporting USF students, the Damers care for their rescue pets, volunteer their time at several non-profit organizations, including animal rescues, a hospice, the local library, and Literacy for Life tutorial program. Both Damer and Hartshorn, both retired, understand the importance of giving back and live out USF’s Jesuit values every day.
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